The thief hides the purloined letter, in Edgar Allan Poe’s story, by placing it in plain sight. His theft is overlooked because no attempt is made to conceal it. The crimes of the postmodern American empire, I want to suggest, are concealed in the same way. Covert operations actually function as spectacle. So let us begin like Poe’s Inspector Dupin, and attend to the evidence before our eyes. 1